Pitt disenrolls unvaccinated students as W.Pa. universities grapple with COVID requirements

Disenrolled students may apply for a tuition refund, and, if they choose to get vaccinated, will be allowed to re-enroll, according to a published report

By: - January 14, 2022 11:56 am

(Photo via Pittsburgh City Paper).

By Jordana Rosenfeld

PITTSBURGH — As the Spring 2022 semester begins, the University of Pittsburgh announced it had “disenrolled” an unspecified number of non-exempt, unvaccinated students for their refusal to get a COVID vaccine.

“The most successful and sustainable approach to keeping our community healthy and safe is one that utilizes vaccination as a condition of studying or working on our campuses,” the university said in a December 2021 statement announcing the vaccine requirement.

“While we continue to work with those who are trying to come into compliance, late last week noncompliant students were disenrolled from classes and lost access to Pitt buildings and certain IT functions,” assistant vice chancellor of communications David Seldin said Tuesday in a statement to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“In addition, noncompliant employees lost access to Pitt buildings and certain IT resources,” Seldin said.

Disenrolled students may apply for a tuition refund, and, if they choose to get vaccinated, will be allowed to re-enroll, the Tribune-Review reported.

On Jan. 11, Pitt reported 209 positive cases among students and 205 positive cases among faculty and staff since the university returned from winter break on Jan. 4. Both the seven-day average and overall number of positive cases from that period are significantly higher than those of any two consecutive weeks from the previous semester.

Although Pitt is one of the first local universities to turn away non-exempt, unvaccinated individuals, it is not the only local university with a vaccine mandate.

Carnegie Mellon University’s vaccine policy resembles Pitt’s, requiring students, faculty, and staff to furnish proof of vaccination and a booster, if applicable, by Feb. 16.

However, an FAQ entry on CMUs website indicates that unvaccinated students who have not received an exemption are permitted to attend the school provided they complete an online daily self-assessment, participate in CMU’s weekly Tartan Testing program, and wear a mask.

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“Individuals who have not received an approved exemption or have not uploaded their vaccination information will receive automated reminders of their obligation to complete the daily self-assessment (DSA), participate in Tartan Testing and wear a facial covering,” CMU’s website reads. “Participation in the DSA and Tartan Testing will be monitored and individuals who are not compliant will receive follow up from the university.”

A university spokesperson did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Duquesne University has not barred unvaccinated students or employees from returning to campus, spokesman Kenneth Walters told the Tribune-Review. However, the university is requiring all students to test negative for COVID 48 hours before arriving on campus.

“We have also instituted a 10-day flexible arrival period, to ensure that students have the time to do what is necessary to return safely,” he said. According to Walters, nearly all (99%) of Duquesne students are in compliance with the University’s vaccine policy, as are 93% of employees.

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Point Park University’s Managing Director of University Marketing and Public Relations Lou Corsaro said in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper that COVID vaccines are required for students, although they may apply for a medical or religious exemption. Corsaro also wrote that the university is preparing for the Biden Administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate, which he said would impact Point Park faculty and staff.

Chatham University was one of the earliest local schools to announce their vaccine mandate, Vice-President of Marketing & Communications Bill Campbell told City Paper in an email. They have also made some changes to their COVID protocol in order to address the omicron surge, Campbell said.

At the start of the semester, Chatham required-entry testing for all students, when it had previously been limited to the unvaccinated. The university also decided to hold most classes online and only offer take-out at their dining facilities until Tue., Jan. 18.

Jordana Rosenfeld is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared

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